Support Local Journalism, Join the SA Current Press Club.

January 17, 2020 Slideshows » News

21 Things You Probably Didn't Know About H-E-B 

Share on Facebook
Submit to Reddit
With a history as long as H-E-B's, and with fans as loyal as they are, we'd say that San Antonians likely know a lot about the locally-based grocery retailer. We'll put you to the test and offer 21 bits of (useless, but interesting) trivia about H-E-B.
OF 21
The company gives away houses — no, really.
In addition to giving back to the community at large, the company also specifically helps out those who have served. H-E-B has provided homes to dozens of wounded veterans over the last couple of years, made possible by the H-E-B Tournament of Champions golf fundraiser.
Photo via Instagram / hebnewsroom
A South Side store was the first H-E-B location with air conditioning.
This ain’t no joke. The Nogalitos location opened on April 1, 1945, making it the first store with A/C and that carried frozen foods. That original location has since been demolished, but it’s still as memorable given that it’s the only H-E-B store in the city that requires a ride up an escalator or elevator to shop.
Photo via Google Maps
Howard E. Butt had a lot of motivation to grow the company.
After Howard returned home in 1919 after serving in the U.S. Navy, Florence turned the store over to him. Knowing that he didn’t want to operate just one store, he worked for many years to open a second store, which he did in 1927 with the opening of a Del Rio store. In 1935, he changed the company’s name to C.C. Butt Cash Grocery and followed a self-serve cash and carry business model. Here he is pictured with his son Charles in 1971.
Photo via Facebook / H-E-B
The company was actually started by one badass woman.
Sure, you’ve heard of Howard E. Butt and Charles Butt. However, Florence Thornton Butt deserves a lot more credit than she’s given. H-E-B all began because she opened a grocery store in Kerrville in 1905 after her husband fell sick. She got a $60 loan (about $1,752 today) to open Mrs. C. C. Butt's Staple and Fancy Grocery. The family lived on the second floor above the store, and Florence would send her sons to deliver groceries. The boys used a red wagon and later a Model T. A replica of the latter is located on the grounds of the company’s headquarters (which is not open to the public, to be clear).
Photo via Instagram / heb
You can grab a drink here.
Though unfortunately not available at all locations, the H-E-B Plus! in Schertz is home to the 3009 Restaurant & Bar. Here you’ll be able to score burgers, sandwiches and even your adult drink of choice — whether it be a margarita or beer flight. There’s even live music events here!
Photo via Instagram / king_ridiculous
The Butt family has a lot of money — probably more than you realize.
CEO Charles Butt, now 81 years old, is worth an estimated $10.7 billion, according to Forbes. He reportedly began working in the family business bagging groceries, stocking products and sweeping the store as a young child and became CEO in 1971. He’s the son of Howard Butt (Sr.).
Photo via Facebook / H-E-B
San Antonio is home to the smallest H-E-B.
Any guesses which one? Yup, the South Flores Market is the tiniest store within the company at just 12,500 square feet.
Photo via Instagram / ginadavisonphotography
San Antonio technically got the first H-E-B.
Sure, Kerrville has bragging rights as where H-E-B all started, but it’s actually the Alamo City that got the first store with its modern name. The company’s first store using the name we know and love today opened in SA in 1942.
Photo via Instagram / thesweetlifediary
Despite its reputation for being Texan as heck, the chain isn’t all over the Lone Star State.
H-E-B is king around South and Central Texas, but Texans in the Panhandle and in much of the Dallas-Fort Worth area live a life without H-E-B. There’s no telling when — if at all — the company will open stores in these parts of Texas.
Photo via Facebook / H-E-B
It doesn’t have the best track record with the environment.
In years past, H-E-B has come out pretty low on the list of retailers and their reputation with green initiatives. The chain has even been ranked dead last for its single-use plastic bags. H-E-B has been criticized for focusing on recycling and helping with cleanup efforts, rather than reducing the amount of bags the company uses.
Photo via Instagram / heb
Skip ad in
The company has a Latino-focused supermercado in Houston.
Ever noticed the Mi Tienda brand within H-E-B stores? Well, Houston has an entire grocery store full of those kinds of goods, with lots of food products aimed at Latin households. Perhaps it’s just a matter of time until San Antonio gets a Mi Tienda of its own.
Photo via Instagram / reidissolare
The first Central Market actually opened in Austin.
Folks living and working around Broadway may want to claim Central Market as its own, but the elevated grocery store was first experienced in the 5-1-2. The company’s first Central Market opened in 1994. The late Gov. Ann Richards even officiated the opening celebration.
Photo via Instagram / central_market
That giant shopping cart has an interesting backstory.
Anyone who’s been to a parade or community event where H-E-B has participated has likely seen a giant shopping cart from the store. But did you know that the oversized cart was actually designed by an H-E-B employee? In 2011, longtime employee Carroll Wesch came up with the concept, and the freakishly large cart has been making appearances ever since.
Photo via Facebook / H-E-B
Charles Butt made the company what it is today.
While Florence H. Butt opened the first store and Howard E. Butt increased the number of stores, it’s ole’ Charles, the current CEO, who brought up the standards at H-E-B’s stores, from how items were displayed to the width of the aisles. While Howard is credited with building H-E-B, it’s these changes that has earned Charles the reputation of saving the company.
Photo via Instagram / heb
H-E-B gives back in major ways.
The company has donated millions of dollars to relief funds, charities, hometown projects, schools, donations to the community, the list goes on and on. The company donates a reported 5% of its pre-tax profits to charities not only Texas causes, but wherever help is needed.
Photo via Instagram / heb
Howard Butt once tried to buy out a competitor at the worst possible time.
The Centeno family operated a grocery store in San Antonio’s West Side, and at one point had five stores. After a death in the Centeno family, Howard sent his condolences. About 48 hours later, he sent people to the family’s store to try to buy them out. The Centenos declined, that is, until years later when they could no longer survive against the growing chain. H-E-B was responsible for the decline of Handy Andy, pictured above, and national brands not staying — or setting up — in SA.
Photo via UTSA Libraries Digital Collections
Alcohol wasn’t sold inside the stores.
While H-E-B is a go-to for many locals when they need to stock up on beer for the cookout, such was not always the case. Howard Butt reportedly refused to sell beer or wine, leading to the store’s nickname of “God’s Grocer.” It wasn’t until 1976, fairly recent in the company’s history, that you could purchase beer or wine on-site. That same year, the stores also began opening on Sundays.
Photo via Instagram / heb
H-E-B takes its culinary skills very seriously.
So much that the company has its own culinary academy, located right here in San Antonio. Local employees can take part in the academy to learn how to work at the sampling stations you can find while shopping, as well as those who work at the in-store restaurants and prepared food departments.
Photo via Facebook / H-E-B
The company has a discriminatory past.
In 1984, 10 night workers, all Mexican-American, were fired from an Uvalde H-E-B after they were accused of stealing. Collectively, they sued the company for libel, slander and wrongful determination, believing that their firing was rooted in discrimination. The workers eventually settled a lawsuit against the company for $8 million. Charles Butt later admitted that the company was at fault for how it handled the incident. Around that same time, the company also faced a lawsuit that claimed Mexican-American employees were not being promoted to top management positions.
Photo via Shutterstock
The company was accused of predatory pricing in the ‘70s.
In February 1976, roughly 20 members of the San Antonio Independent Retail Grocers Associations accused H-E-B of predatory pricing, meaning it would lower its prices with the intention of driving a competitor out of business. Other shady tactics used by the company were reportedly inspired by Kroger’s entrance in the supermarket scene in the ‘80s, but H-E-B’s moves mostly hurt small, local businesses.
Photo via Facebook / H-E-B
Skip ad in
The company makes sure every Austinite has a warm meal on Thanksgiving Day.
While San Antonians can depend on the Raul Jimenez Thanksgiving Dinner year after year, it’s actually H-E-B that gives back to the community for the holiday. For more than 20 years, the company has served more than 14,000 locals at this event that is free and open to the public. The grocery chain also backs numerous events in cities across Texas through its Feast of Sharing initiative.
Photo via Instagram / hebnewsroom
The company gives away houses — no, really.
In addition to giving back to the community at large, the company also specifically helps out those who have served. H-E-B has provided homes to dozens of wounded veterans over the last couple of years, made possible by the H-E-B Tournament of Champions golf fundraiser.
Photo via Instagram / hebnewsroom

Additional News Slideshows

Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

At a time when local-based reporting is critical, support from our readers is essential to our future. Join the San Antonio Current Press Club for as little as $5 a month.


Join SA Current Newsletters

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 26, 2022

View more issues


© 2022 San Antonio Current

Website powered by Foundation